• Madison White

A Story a Day #38: Montague Rhodes James




March 23rd, 2020

"The Mezzotint"

Montague Rhodes James


An art curator is given an engraving by another, well-established art curator. They notice that it is priced very highly despite looking quite amatuer and not having much information about it. It looks quite simply like a manor. Upon closer inspection with some colleagues, they notice a figure on the lawn and that it is etched in moonlight. When they look again, with someone else, they notice that the figure is no longer there but a window is open. They can't believe that the etching is changing. Eventually, they get more information about the estate that is depicted in the picture. They learn that the last heir died in infancy and the father made the etching. He died shortly after finishing it. It now hangs in a museum and hasn't changed since.


This story honestly reminds me of a quintessential British short story. It is written in language that isn't plain or straightforward. There are fancy words that, in my American opinion, don't need to be there. The action is slow and gradual and the mystery reveals itself with small details. It reminds me a lot like various Sherlock Holmes stories though with less immediate danger. A lot of people really love this style, but it's not my favorite. I think because so many short stories, both old and new, are written in this style, it just feels dated and boring. Granted, this story was probably written well before all the copycats, but even still.

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